Getting a good night’s rest is easier said than done.
That’s particularly true in the veterinary industry. Long hours, emotional demands, and the continuous pressure to provide top-notch care can have a major impact on your quality of sleep, which in turn can affect your mood, concentration, and overall wellbeing.
While there’s no easy fix to sleep deprivation (no, another cup of coffee isn’t the answer, trust us), there are a number of things you can do to promote healthy sleep and maximize your chances of catching some quality Zzzs.
In this blog post, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about improving sleep hygiene, including actionable tips you can start using immediately to get a better night’s rest.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits and practices that promote healthy, restful sleep. It involves adopting healthy sleep habits and making changes to your sleep environment and daily routine to improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Good sleep hygiene can help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed and alert - all of which are crucial for your overall health and wellbeing.
The benefits of good sleep hygiene
Improved cognitive function
Good sleep hygiene has been linked to improved cognitive function, including better memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. These cognitive functions are essential for diagnosing and treating animals, communicating with clients, and managing the many responsibilities of the job. By prioritizing rest, you can ensure that you're operating at their cognitive best.
Reduced risk of burnout
Burnout is a common problem among veterinary professionals, with long hours, emotional stress, and high workloads often taking a toll on mental and physical health. Prioritizing rest through good sleep hygiene can help reduce the risk of burnout by improving emotional resilience, reducing stress levels, and providing the energy needed to tackle the demands of the job.
Improved physical health
Good sleep hygiene has also been linked to improved physical health. Adequate sleep has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It can also help regulate hormones, such as cortisol and leptin, which are important for maintaining a healthy weight and appetite.
Better mental health
Sleep plays a critical role in mental health, and good sleep hygiene has been linked to better mood regulation, reduced anxiety, and improved overall mental health. For veterinary professionals who are often exposed to emotional stressors, prioritizing rest can help improve emotional regulation and enhance mental wellbeing.
7 tips for improving sleep hygiene
Despite the importance of quality rest, it’s clear that veterinary professionals aren’t getting enough sleep. For example, more than 7 in 10 (71.2%) veterinary anesthesia personnel report being poor-quality sleepers, according to a 2023 study published in Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia. Almost 3 in 4 (74.7%) reported making mistakes due to work-related fatigue, while 88.9% reported driving while fatigued.
The good news is that there are some simple ways to avoid contributing to these statistics. Here are some practical tips to help you instantly improve your sleep hygiene:
1. Establish a regular sleep schedule
One of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep is to establish a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body's internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep per day.
2. Create a comfortable sleep environment
Your sleep environment can have a big impact on the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow that provide the right amount of support for your body. Consider using blackout curtains or a white noise machine to block out any outside noise or light that could disrupt your sleep.
3. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
Developing a relaxing bedtime routine can help signal to your body that it's time to wind down and get ready for sleep. Try taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Avoid using electronic devices right before bed, as the blue light they emit can interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
4. Avoid stimulants before bedtime
Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to avoid consuming these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy at first, but it can also disrupt your sleep later in the night.
5. Get regular exercise
Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Just be sure to finish your workout a few hours before bedtime, as exercising too close to bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep.
6. Manage stress
Stress and anxiety can be major barriers to getting quality sleep. Consider incorporating stress-management techniques into your daily routine, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. It may also be helpful to talk to a mental health professional if you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
7. Seek professional help if necessary
If you're consistently having trouble falling or staying asleep, it may be worth talking to your healthcare provider about potential treatments. Sleep aids like melatonin supplements or prescription medications may be recommended in some cases, but they should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Prioritizing sleep hygiene is an essential aspect of self-care. By establishing healthy sleep habits, you can improve your physical and mental health, increase productivity, reduce the risk of accidents, and improve your overall quality of life.
So, next time you're tempted to sacrifice sleep for work, remember that getting quality rest is just as important as any other aspect of your job! Start prioritizing your sleep hygiene today, and you'll be on your way to a healthier, happier life.
Need more mindfulness in your life? Check out Mindful May, an ezyVet initiative dedicated to promoting wellbeing and self-care in the veterinary industry.